A hundred high schoolers are at the statehouse today (Tuesday), urging lawmakers to require registration tags on beer kegs and increase the penalties for adults who provide alcohol to minors.
Sixteen-year-old Tim Carr, a high school junior from Lamoni, helped start a group called “Iowans to Reduce Underage Drinking” that’s been pushing for three years for beer keg registration. “Twenty-seven states in the nation currently have a state law on the books, so I ask today on behalf of Iowa’s youth: why can’t Iowa become number 28?” Carr asks. The neighboring states of Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota and Nebraska all require registration tags on beer kegs.
Carr says kids from Garner, Mason City, Lamoni, Des Moines, Sioux City and Worth County are at the statehouse to show Iowa they care and that it’s time for change. “We’re here to lead the way,” Carr says. Carr says many adults who’ve bought kegs for kids are never held accountable when something goes wrong because cops can’t track who bought the keg because there’s no registration required at the point of purchase.
Carr says when you hold people accountable for their actions, you often change behavior and keg registration may make some adults think twice before buying a keg for kids. “We won’t shut up ’til our voices are heard and the common sense strategies we’re advocating become law,” Carr says. “The cost of ignoring our underage drinking epidemic is a price that this state should not be willing to pay.”
Emily Nelson, a junior at Sioux City West High School, is one of 30 Sioux City-area kids lobbying for beer keg registration. “Most of the youth here today are under the age of 18 and cannot yet vote, nor do we have money to contribute to candidates or influence legislators, however it must be remembered that we someday will,” Nelson says. “We have the moral high-ground and data that assures us that beer keg registration is the right thing to do to save lives that may include our own friends and peers.”
Nelson says grocery store managers in South Sioux City, Nebraska, where keg registration is required, say the law works. “They reported that the paperwork takes very little time to complete and is relatively simple,” Nelson says. Nick Cash, a senior at Des Moines Lincoln High School, says his friend, Nick Bisignano, got drunk at a party on December 26, 2004, and crashed his speeding car. “Although it was Nick’s fault to choose to drink and drive that night, an adult made the decision to abuse his privilege of buying alcohol by providing it to minors,” Cash says.
Cash backs keg registration as well as a bill that would toughen penalties for adults who buy beer or alcohol for minors. “All through high school kids have seemed to be able to obtain alcohol whenever they want it and almost all the time it’s purchased by an adult knowingly providing alcohol to minors,” Cash says. Iowa’s Public Safety Commissioner claims that 25 percent of the alcohol that’s consumed in Iowa is drunk by kids who’re younger than 21.
Nearly a year ago, Sherry Clark’s 15-year-old son, Billy, got drunk at a friend’s birthday party and died when he fell off a bridge over the Boone River and drowned. “I am thrilled to see all these young people here, to know that this is a concern to them because it is a concern,” Clark says. “We have lost many young people to tragic accidents, my son included.”
Christy Batton, a Substance Abuse Free Environment Coordinator for Mills County, says they’ve installed a “Party Stoppers” toll-free hotline. People can call in anonymously and report an underage drinking party. There’s a 50-dollar reward if the party is successfully busted. The hotline’s been running since January 18th, and she says they’ve yet to receive a call. A similar hotline is operating in Pottawattamie County.